Croatia has been on our bucket list for some time, but we didn’t realize how much cheaper it would be if we flew to Milan first (note: your mileage may vary depending on flight prices at the time of booking). This itinerary starts with 4 days in Italy, making Milan our home-base and taking day trips, and then heads over to Croatia for the remainder of the trip.
Day 1: Exploring Milan
After an overnight flight landing in Milan Malpensa Airport, we grabbed train tickets to Milano Centrale, or Milan Central Station. As we were taking many day trips from Milan, we wanted our lodging to be easily accessible from the main station. Ostello Bello Grande fit the bill! This adorable and clean hostel is just 100m away from the station, making it a perfect home-base for our time in Milan.
After checking in and getting settled, it was time to start exploring Milan. We hopped on the metro and headed towards the Brera district, the artistic heart of the city. First things first: it was time to eat! How better to start our trip than some authentic Italian pizza!
After lunch, we walked over to La Scala, the Milan opera house. Some of the greatest singers of the past 200 years have sung here, and although we didn’t have time for a show, it was still great to see it from the outside!
Our walk continued to Gallery Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest active shopping mall and one of the most luxurious boutiques in Milan. The gallery contains many brands such as Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton, but is also home to many other boutiques and restaurants. Do not miss this iconic stop when in Milan!
From the Gallery, we continued walking towards Duomo di Milano, the Milan Cathedral. This beautiful cathedral was constructed over 5 centuries and is the 5th largest Christian church in the world! We recommend purchasing tickets in advance, as entrance lines can be quite long.
PRO TIP: There is a dress code to enter il Duomo. No bare shoulders, no shorts, no flip flops. Men must remove caps, and no sunglasses can be worn inside. If you do not have a jacket, there are usually people selling shawls outside of the entrance to cover yourself.
After a tour, we wandered around the beautiful streets admiring the gothic architecture. We passed several gelato stops and finally caved – it was totally worth it!
Our last stop of the night was at Sforzesco Castle, a historic castle once occupied by the Sforza dynasty, who ruled Renaissance Milan. Today it houses many interesting museums, which highlight the history of Milan. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door.
PRO TIP: The museums are closed on Mondays. There is free entry every first and third Tuesday of the month from 2:00pm on.
Follow the other locations for days 2-8, and return here for day 9:
Day 9: Return to Milan
We spent the relaxing morning eating breakfast on our patio overlooking Dubrovnik.
After breakfast, we headed back to the Dubrovnik airport (our AirBNB owner drove us), caught our flight to Milan Malpensa, headed back to the Milan Central train station, and took the metro back to last hostel: Ostello Bello Medici.
We only had a couple of hours to see the last of Milan, so we headed over to Colonne di San Lorenzo, or the Columns of St. Lawrence. This is a group of columns from the 3rd century AD, probably at one time a public bath house.
Next, we went to Porta Ticinese, a former city gate of Milan.
We found dinner at a nearby restaurant, and then took advantage of the free welcome drink back at our hostel. The rest of the night was spent making friends with other travelers and locals at the hostel bar. The friendly atmosphere of this hostel bar made our last night in Italy a fun one!
Day 10: Return to USA
Unfortunately all trips must come to an end. We took the bus (as advised by the hostel) back to the Milan airport and flew back to the USA. Luckily, we got a beautiful view of the Alps as we left!